Know Your History: WW2 Trifecta

Some Light Reading…



This Panzer Ace Destroyed More Than A Dozen British Tanks


Operation Queen: The Western Allied November 1944 Offensive


Ireland Was Neutral in World War II, so Why Did the Nazis Attack It?



Russian Corner: The Hybrid State as Adversary


Oceans of ink and terabytes of electronic musings have been expended on the subject of hybrid warfare. The classic formulation is a non-state actor with appurtenances of state power and, in many cases, support from traditional nation states. Of particular concern to defense planners and intelligence experts was the ability of these non-state actors to acquire and employ advanced military systems such as anti-tank guided missiles, artillery rockets and man-portable anti-aircraft missiles. Insurgents and terrorists would employ advanced systems to increase their lethal capabilities without changing either their strategies or organizations.  The concept of hybrid warfare was soon expanded to the realm of strategy.

As explained by Frank Hoffman, perhaps the best scholar on the subject:

The most distinctive change in the character of modern war is the blurred or blended nature of combat. We do not face a widening number of distinct challenges but their convergence into hybrid wars.

These hybrid wars blend the lethality of state conflict with the fanatical and protracted fervor of irregular warfare. In such conflicts, future adversaries (states, state-sponsored groups, or self-funded actors) will exploit access to modern military capabilities  . . .

Prior to 2014, hybrid warfare was generally believed to be a strategy of the weak, groups or nations lacking the military means, financial resources, territorial base or organizational skills to fully exploit modern military means. The Russian invasion of Crimea and the initiation of a proxy war in Eastern Ukraine stunned Western strategists, generally, and the community of hybrid warfare theorists, in particular. Here was a major power relying largely on a mix of special forces, proxy forces, limited numbers of traditional military units (often in disguise) and a very sophisticated campaign of political subversion, economic attack, cyber warfare and information operations to conduct a campaign of territorial conquest while reducing the risk of escalation to conventional inter-state conflict.

This led some observers to propose the idea of multi-vector hybrid warfare and of political and information operations intended to undermine target states either to support more kinetic operations or even to obviate the need for physical coercion as somehow a new concept in inter-state conflict. Others drew a close correlation between actions by the current Russian government and the history of Soviet political and propaganda operations during the Cold War.

More recently, a number of authors have brought a measure of historical perspective and dispassionate analysis to the issue. While the means available to Russia are somewhat different, notably access to the world’s banking system, the presence of Moscow-supported news outlets in Western capitals, the ability to conduct cyber attacks on critical networks, as these authors and others point out, the use of all national sources of power to influence the behavior of adversaries and prepare the battlespace for possible kinetic conflict is as old as the organized state.

While it is true that many states have practiced some forms of hybrid warfare, not all have done so successfully and few have been able to implement it as an integrated strategy.  We have seen examples of this recently when repeated attempts by this White House to forge an alliance with so-called moderate Syrian rebels against either Assad or ISIS foundered over concerns for the rebel groups’ political bona fides. Government efforts to develop information operations against Islamic violent extremists have foundered over concerns about not being allowed to engage in propaganda, e.g., to lie.

In reality, only a few nations and non-state actors have demonstrated a real proficiency at conducting hybrid warfare. What distinguishes the masters of the art of hybrid warfare from the average practitioners is that they learned these skills in their struggles for domestic power. The tools for hybrid warfare – deception, infiltration, corruption, the use of cover organizations, paramilitary forces, the creation of new domestic security entities and conventional military capabilities – were all used first to seize and consolidate domestic power.

Today, Russia is the ultimate hybrid threat. I describe it as such not merely because it has developed a panoply of official and un-official tools with which to pursue its strategic objectives but because it is the quintessential hybrid actor. Hybrid actors are generally defined as non-state entities able to employ both traditional and non-traditional elements of power and, in many cases, support from traditional nation states. Russia is unique insofar as it is controlled by a cabal that has many of the characteristics of non-state groups that have acquired hybrid capabilities and developed strategies based on their use. Moreover, many of the tools and techniques employed by the Kremlin in the pursuit of its external strategy are the same as it has employed to maintain and even increase its domestic controls.  It is hardly surprising that the Russian ruling circle, the Vertikal, with its core of former and current secret police officers and close engagement with criminal elements in the pursuit of pecuniary interests, has been able to employ with such effect bribery, blackmail, hacking, intimidation and outright murder in its domestic and foreign operations.

Read the Remainder at National Interest

Military History: The Spanish Civil War – A World War II Trial Run


It was the BIGGEST Proxy War of it’s Time.

A Mediterranean nation beset by military coup and civil war. A savage struggle marked by atrocities and fanaticism. Proxy war waged by outside nations pumping in men, weapons and money.

Today’s Syria or Turkey? No, it’s sunny Spain, now a peaceful member of the European Union, but eighty years ago the arena for one of the most vicious conflicts in history. The Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 is remembered today as a sort of Second World War-in-training, a playoff game before the championship match between Team Axis and Team Allies a few years later.

The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 when Francisco Franco led a dissident group of staunchly conservative and Catholic generals, as well as half the Spanish Army, against the liberal, elected Spanish government. What should have been an internal military revolt like the recent attempted coup in Turkey swelled into an international struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, liberalism and conservatism, and communism versus fascism. In the end, fascism won.

In some ways, the Spanish Civil War belongs to a different era. We are accustomed today to slaughter inflicted in the name of God. Back then, the cause was ideology, the disputes over whether the world should be democratic or fascist or communist. Yet in other ways, the conflict seems all too familiar. Like today’s Iraq and Syria, the combatants fought amongst themselves as well as the enemy. The Nationalists were a collection of conservatives, monarchists and fascist Falangists. The Republicans were supported by a bizarre potpourri of socialists, communists, Trotskyites and anarchists, as well as international leftists such as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from America. The “White Terror” of the Nationalists murdered two hundred thousand opponents, grimly dwarfing the fifty thousand or so victims of the Red Terror, conducted by Republican death squads that were led by Soviet NKVD secret police.

The Nationalist rebels were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy—not just with arms, but with troops and aircraft. German transport aircraft flew Nationalist soldiers from Spanish North Africa to the mainland. More important, Germany dispatched the Condor Legion, a twelve-thousand-strong force equipped with bombers, fighters and tanks. Not to be outdone, Mussolini sent fifty thousand Italians. By comparison, perhaps ten thousand Russian troops might have been committed to today’s Syrian Civil War.

Though the Spanish Civil War is viewed as a proving ground for World War II, that’s not strictly true. The mountainous Spanish terrain precluded the massed tank attacks and deep-penetration mechanized offensives of World War II. But it did provide invaluable experience to Hitler’s military, especially the Luftwaffe. Germany had the chance to test weapons it later used in World War II, such as the He-111 and Do-17 bombers. Legendary Luftwaffe fighter aces such as Adolph Galland and Werner Molders learned their craft in Spanish skies, devising deadly air combat tactics such as the “finger-four” formation. Not surprisingly, Italy didn’t fare quite so well, such as when the Republicans defeated an Italian force at the Battle of Guadalajara.

With typical fascist unity, Franco did not reciprocate Hitler’s generosity. In 1940, with France conquered and Britain fighting alone, the führer attempted to persuade Franco to declare war on Britain. The Spanish dictator successfully fobbed him off, leading Hitler to declare that he would rather endure a visit to the dentist than negotiate with Franco.

For the Republicans, the world turned its back. Some British officials preferred a fascist-leaning Nationalist regime to a leftist one. Britain and France imposed an arms embargo on both sides, but with the Nationalists receiving German and Italian weapons, the freeze only hurt the Republicans (just as the post-1967 British and French arms embargo in the Middle East only hurt Israel, rather than the Soviet-supplied Arabs). Only the Soviet Union would provide weapons and advisers.

Soviet officers also had the opportunity to learn modern combat, though naturally Stalin had his Spanish Civil War veterans executed for fear of ideological contamination. Yet not all the lessons were correct. Top Soviet military leaders concluded that massed armor was ineffective, and that tanks should be dispersed in small packets to support the infantry, a doctrine later smashed by German blitzkrieg tactics.

At times the war veered into the farcical, as when Italian submarines sank neutral ships transporting supplies to the Republicans. Instead of condemning Italy, Britain and France blamed “pirates” (as if Blackbeard was a U-boat commander), and began convoying ships in the Mediterranean.

Read the Remainder at National Interest

World War II History: Hitler’s Kamikazes


April 7, 1945, should have been just another high-explosive day over Nazi Germany. That morning, as they had done on so many mornings for the past three years, the bomb-laden B-17s and B-24s lumbered into the sky from their airfields in southern England. An armada of 1,300 bombers, snug under the protection of 850 P-47 and P-51 fighters, droned majestically over the North Sea toward their targets in northern Germany. Marked for destruction were oil facilities and arms factories near Hamburg, as well as airfields where the revolutionary Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters were based.

No combat mission over Nazi Germany could ever truly be a “milk run.” Yet the Eighth Air Force had come a long way since the dark days of late 1943, when its raids against Regensburg and Schweinfurt cost 20 percent of the bombing force. By April 1945, only a month away from Hitler’s suicide and the Thousand-Year Reich’s surrender, Germany’s defenses were disintegrating.  The Luftwaffe, crippled by fuel shortages and lack of trained pilots, was only capable of sporadic—albeit still deadly—attacks. German jets outclassed the slower propeller-driven Allied bombers and fighters, but there weren’t many of them. At this stage in the war, the biggest problem for the American and British bomber fleets wasn’t German aircraft, but rather finding fresh cities that hadn’t already been bombed to rubble.

Since the first Flying Fortresses had appeared over Germany in January 1943, the Luftwaffe had thrown everything it could think of to knock down the big American four-engined bombers. Single-engine fighters, twin-engined fighters, bombers converted into fighters, fighters carrying anti-tank guns, aerial rockets, and aerial bombs dropped into the bomber formations. The Luftwaffe was caught in a chicken-and-egg crossfire: to shoot down massed formations of heavy bombers bristling with machine guns, the Germans needed heavily armed and armored fighters. But these clumsy “assault fighters” were easy prey for the nimbler American fighter escorts.

Desperate for a solution, the Nazis turned to another idea. They would ram their fighters into the American bombers.

Read the Remainder at National Interest


Military News: US Army Signed Up For Jungle Warfare School


Reduced visibility, thick vegetation, emerging waterways and lush terrain all make it more difficult for Soldiers to track, find and destroy hidden enemies in the jungle – a major training emphasis for the Army as it seeks to prepare for the widest possible range of combat contingencies in the future.

Staging ambushes, raiding enemy safe houses and seeking out enemy fighters woven into trees, bushes, marshes, small rivers and thick underbrush – are all activities performed in an Army “jungle warfare” school.

US Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division and Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division were attacking enemies, conducting ambushes and “moving to contact” in the thick jungles of Africa as a way to better prepare for potential future combat scenarios, service officials said.

The combat exercises took place at the French Jungle Warfare School in Libreville, Gabon, a country in central Africa.

After more than a decade and a half of fighting in the Iraqi desert and mountains of Afghanistan, the Army is stepping up its training in “jungle warfare” conditions as part of a broader effort to anticipate emerging terrorist and state threats against whom the Army could be called to operate.

The training included “mock-combat” circumstances wherein troops had to repel ambushes, attack enemy locations and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions in circumstances with reduced visibility.

“In the jungle everything is in confined quarters. You do not have freedom of maneuver because of the vegetation,” 1st Lt. Blake Moore, Assistant Operations officer, 2nd brigade, 82nd Airborne, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Soldiers participating in the jungle warfare school ran through an obstacle courses, confronted various booby traps and practiced specific tactics needed to fight in a jungle environment. These include stalking enemies in camoflauge, sniper operations and using trees and brush to launch surprise attacks.

While some infrared sensors might still be able to detect “heat” signatures through jungle leaves, trees and underbrush, electro-optical sensors and other kinds of visually-oriented technologies will operate quite differently in the jungle.

Moore explained that, despite the vastly different surveillance conditions in the jungle, most Soldier equipment is the same as what is used in desert and mountain conditions; he did, however, say that often times different boots designed to drain water and dry quickly in wet jungle conditions.

Army Soldiers are now conducting operations in Djibouti, Africa and participating with Gabonese paratroopers in international “jump” exercises simulating forcible entry operations from the air.

As the Army pivots beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa is increasingly becoming an area for training and collaboration with allies; ISIS operates in Libya and other parts of the continent are known to harbor terrorists and their sympathizers – further underscoring the need for the US Army to strengthen its ties with allies in the region.

The jungle-warfare preparation can easilty be perceived as a key element of an overall Army strategy to move beyond recent years of counterinsurgency warfare into scenarios requiring a broader set of skills. This includes heavy mechanized force-on-force training as well as Vietnam-type jungle combat and maritime or island conflicts wherein Army Soldiers and weapons might be needed to attack targets on islands or ocean areas.

Read the Original Article at Scout Warrior.